THE Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Bekan was bathed in bright sunshine as James Horan moved from interview to interview and question to question last Tuesday afternoon.
He carried a GPA Diary as he went from table to table, and was nothing if not pragmatic and measured from start to end.
Anybody looking for outlandish statements or big headlines from the Mayo manager were going to be disappointed.
Horan’s focus was inscrutable and his message was clear — Mayo are travelling to New York on Thursday morning to take care of business next Sunday at Gaelic Park.
Pleasure is off the menu, except we can assume, for a few hours on Sunday night once safe passage has been booked to the Connacht SFC semi-final against Roscommon.
Horan travelled to New York earlier this month with County Board chairman, Mike Connelly, and the senior’s team head of logistics and operations, Joe Doyle, to run the rule over the facilities that Mayo will be using during their stay in America.
Among the sites they visited were the team’s hotel, Gaelic Park, and Rocklands GAA club.
Nothing is being left to chance.
“There’s obviously a big crowd from Mayo going over, there’s Mayo Day on the day before the game, so a lot of events and different things planned,” Horan told The Mayo News.
“It’s a great occasion for Mayo people, when you think of Mayo people coming from Boston, Chicago and other cities all meeting there.
“So from that aspect it’s a great weekend for Mayo people.
“But, thankfully, we’ve such an experienced bunch of players, that have played in New York before and Ruislip before, and are very good at getting their attention where it needs to be for championship. So I don’t think any of the events or activities that are going on will in any way distract these guys from giving the best performance they can.”
Horan has agreed to allow his players to attend two different official engagements in New York before the game — the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation Gala on Friday night, and a Mayo Day Event at the Irish Hunger Musuem on Saturday afternoon.
He explained the thinking behind these shows of support.
“I think that’s important, and I think where the team are at as well, we’ve a lot of new guys and a lot of very experienced guys,” he said.
“I think they really appreciate the support that we get, and I think when we’re in a situation like we are in New York, where it makes sense and doesn’t impact on the game, that we work with some of the Mayo events that are out there as an acknowledgement of some of the support that we get.
“So we’ll be keen to do that, and we’ve tried to do that all year.
“The players are just so experienced that nothing will distract them or cause their attention to go where it shouldn’t.
“The prep for the game is mainly around rest and recovery, getting hydration and nutrition right, and making sure that’s okay. Once that’s okay, I’m confident that we’ll be in a good position for the game.”
The logistics of flying a group of around 50 people (between players, management team and support staff) from Ireland to New York also takes some organising, especially when you factor in Mayo’s plans to stay on next week for a training camp.
“There’s a lot of checklists going around,” smiled Horan.
“Thankfully, I’ve a very competent person in Joe Doyle to do that, there’s a huge amount to it to do it right. Flights, accommodation, transfers, passports. . and all that. My focus is on making sure that the training sessions we have before we go are really good.
“The nutrition side of it, there’s a lot to it, these guys like to eat, so there’s a good bit of that to try and balance out.
“I don’t know can you enjoy some of the lead-up to the championship matches, there’s so much and so many things that you’re constantly checking to make sure they’re on track,” he added.
“And particularly with this one, there are some added aspects to it, so to make sure they’re right so that we can play as well as we can on the Sunday.”